South Tyneside Council is supporting a campaign aimed at reforming the benefits system which seeks to ensure that nobody has to go without the essentials of life.
In support of the Guarantee Our Essential campaign, which is being run by the Trussell Trust, the Hospitality and Hope food bank is organising an event outside South Shields Town Hall next week to collect signatures for a petition.
The Trussell Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation are calling on the government to introduce an ‘Essentials Guarantee’ which would protect people from going without the essentials after their research revealed that 90 per cent of low-income households on Universal Credit are doing just that.
Brian Thomas, Chief Executive of the Hospitality and Hope food bank, said: “These are desperate times. We see every day the effect that having to go without is having on our communities. Whilst supporting the need for the benefits system to be overhauled, we know that it is not only people on benefits who are struggling at the moment. Over 40 per cent of those coming to us for support are in employment, so it’s vital that people know how to access the support they need to boost their income.”
Councillor Paul Dean, Lead Member for the Voluntary Sector, Partnerships and Equalities, said: “We strongly support this campaign, which calls upon Government to raise the basic rate of Universal Credit so it at least covers essential costs – costs which have risen significantly for the lowest-income households over the past year. We have worked in partnership with organisations across the borough to do everything we can to support residents and boost financial security. But there is only so much we can do. Government must now step up and do more to tackle poverty, particularly in the North East where rates of child poverty are rising significantly.”
South Tyneside’s Welfare Support Team offers a free, confidential welfare benefits and debt advice service to help residents navigate the benefits system to ensure they are receiving the help they are entitled to. The team also helps people recover benefits at appeal which have been stopped by the Department of Work and Pensions. Last year more than £4.6milllion was recovered in unclaimed benefits.
The team also manages the Council’s crisis support scheme which can provide assistance to residents facing serious financial hardship as well as community care grants to help applicants needing to access unaffordable housing goods and furniture.
The Welfare Support Team offers face-to-face, telephone or home visits appointments. To contact the team, call 0191 424 6040 or email email@example.com
For information on other cost of living support available, including on food, energy bills and school uniforms, go to www.southtyneside.gov.uk/costofliving